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LITERARY    LIFE                          259
sole heir of all great families in China, doted on by his grandmother, the highest authority of the household, but extremely afraid of his father, completely admired by all his female cousins and catered for by his maid-servants, who attended to his bath and sat in watch over him at night; his love for Taiyti, hi$ orphan cousin staying in their house, who was suffering from consumption and was fed on birds'-nest soup, easily outshining the rest in beauty and poetry, but a little too clever to be happy like the more stupid ones, opening her love to Paoyii with the purity and intensity of a young maiden's heart; another female cousin, Pacts'a, also in love with Paoyu, but plumper and more practical-minded and considered a better wife by the elders; the final deception, arrangements for the wedding to Paots'a by the mothers without Paoyti's or Taiytf s knowledge, Taiyii not hearing of it until shortly before the wedding, which made her laugh hysterically and sent her to her death, and Paoyii not hearing of it till the wedding night; Paoyu's discovery of the deception by his own parents, Ms becoming half-idiotic and losing his mind, and finally his becoming a monk.
All of this is depicted against the rise and fall of a great family, the crescendo of piling family misfortunes extending over the last third of the story, taking one's breath away like the Fall of the House of Usher. Its heyday of pleasure was passed; bankruptcy hung in the air; instead of a wine-feast under the mid-autumn moon, we hear ghosts wailing in the silent courtyard; the beautiful girls grew up and married off into different homes with different luck; Paoyti's personal maid-servants were sent away and married, and the most devoted one, Ch'ingwen, died chaste and true. The phantasmagoria vanished.
If, as some Chinese critics say, the Red Chamber Dream could ruin a country, it should have ruined China long ago. Taiyti and Paots'a have become the nation's sweethearts, and a number of other types are there, too: the impetuous Ch'ingwen, the feminine Hsijen, the romantic Hsiangytin, the womanly T'anch'un, the garrulous Fengchieh, the talented Miaoyii, all there for one to settle one's choice upon, each representing a different type. The easiest way to find out a Chinaman's temperament is to ask him whether he likes Taiyti more or